Cantwell leading a press conference in the U.S. Senate
Senator Maria Cantwell with Sens. Roger Wicker, Mark Warner, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Todd Young and John Cornyn speaking to the press after the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act.

With Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, as lead nego­tia­tor, the Unit­ed States Sen­ate put togeth­er and passed the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act to give a major shot in the arm to America’s semi­con­duc­tor indus­try as the coun­try faces a chip short­age and an inno­va­tion chal­lenge from China.

The leg­is­la­tion, offi­cial­ly enti­tled Cre­ate Help­ful Incen­tives to Pro­duce Semi­con­duc­tors (CHIPS) Act, passed on a bipar­ti­san 64–33 vote and was sent for final House pas­sage before going to Pres­i­dent Biden.

What hap­pened at that point was absurd. The House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship whipped a “No” vote, just as sit did last year on the infra­struc­ture package.

The bill would spend $52 bil­lion in grants to microchip man­u­fac­tur­ers as incen­tive to con­struct domes­tic semi­con­duc­tor fab­ri­ca­tion plants.

It would allow the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to invest $20 bil­lion on research tech­nol­o­gy dur­ing the next five years and cre­ate a Tech­nol­o­gy Direc­torate to help uni­ver­si­ties patent and mar­ket prod­ucts of their research.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy would receive $16.9 bil­lion for research, devel­op­ment and deploy­ment. The DOE’s Pacif­ic North­west Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, head­quar­tered in Rich­land, is a major employ­er in the state.

In our tech­nol­o­gy-dri­ven state, all three Repub­li­can House mem­bers vot­ed No. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan New­house, R‑Washington, rep­re­sents Rich­land and is for­ev­er tweet­ing about his dis­trict as a tech­nol­o­gy center.

House Democrats celebrate passage of CHIPS and Science
House Democ­rats cel­e­brate pas­sage of the CHIPS and Sci­ence bill (Pho­to: Speak­er Pelosi’s office)

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, R‑Washington, spoke against CHIPS and Sci­ence, telling col­leagues: “I sup­port mak­ing chips in the Unit­ed States but we can­not lead a new era of inno­va­tion through mas­sive gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. We can­not beat Chi­na by try­ing to out­spend them. The CHIPS bill unlocks the Democ­rats’ tax and spend­ing spree.”

The dis­hon­esty of her speech stands out on mul­ti­ple grounds. His­tor­i­cal­ly, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment seeds basic research that yields new technologies.

A dra­mat­ic recent exam­ple: Vac­cines against the coro­n­avirus. As Cantwell put it: “We know that inno­va­tion is in the DNA of Amer­i­ca. We know it’s helped us win world wars, it’s helped us cure dis­ease, it’s helped cre­ate mil­lions of jobs.”

Polit­i­cal­ly, Repub­li­cans sent them­selves into a fury when Sen­a­tors Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin announced they’ve reached agree­ment on a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill, a $369 bil­lion cli­mate and health pack­age. Its ingre­di­ents range from tax cred­its for clean pow­er plants, cred­its for mid­dle-income Amer­i­cans to pur­chase elec­tric cars, and per­mis­sion (at last!) for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment nego­ti­ate drug prices with Big Phar­ma. A fif­teen per­cent cor­po­rate min­i­mum tax would pay for the package.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans retal­i­at­ed imme­di­ate­ly, block­ing leg­is­la­tion that would increase avail­abil­i­ty of health care ben­e­fits to more than 3.5 mil­lion Amer­i­can vet­er­ans exposed to burn pits and tox­ic sub­stances. Forty Sen­ate Repub­li­cans vot­ed against end­ing debate on what has been a care­ful­ly nego­ti­at­ed bipar­ti­san bill: the iron­i­cal­ly named Hon­or­ing Our PACT Act.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers
U.S. Con­gress­woman Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers speak­ing at the 2018 Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC) in Nation­al Har­bor, Mary­land. (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

McMor­ris Rodgers devot­ed much of her House floor speech to denounc­ing the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill, call­ing it part of “a grand social­ist agen­da for more con­trol and more inflation.”

So did Repub­li­can col­leagues, nick­nam­ing it the “Build Back Broke” bill.

Rodgers has a long his­to­ry of act­ing this way. She called for repeal of the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, as Med­ic­aid expan­sion was help­ing low-income res­i­dents in rur­al cor­ners of her East­ern Wash­ing­ton district.

She didn’t lift a fin­ger when Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dave Reichert, R‑Washington, and Den­ny Heck, D‑Washington, used a dis­charge peti­tion to bring renew­al of the U.S. Export Import Bank to the House floor.

Right wing Repub­li­cans had bot­tled up Ex-Im. But mirac­u­lous­ly, it survived.

McMor­ris Rodgers is also spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion that would step up oil and gas drilling on fed­er­al lands and push aside such reg­u­la­to­ry “bur­dens” as the Endan­gered Species Act. So is New­house, in his role as chair­man of the West­ern Cau­cus, a group of con­ser­v­a­tive House mem­bers intent on such goals as weak­en­ing the Endan­gered Species Act and cur­tail­ing the President’s abil­i­ty to des­ig­nate nation­al mon­u­ments. Agribusi­ness made a stink when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, at urg­ing of Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, cre­at­ed the Han­ford Reach Nation­al Monument.

East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, and the South­west Wash­ing­ton dis­trict of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, R‑Washington, are endur­ing triple-dig­it tem­per­a­tures as of when this post was writ­ten and published.

The Ever­green State has suf­fered record for­est and range fires in the last few years. The Car­leton Com­plex fire, in Newhouse’s dis­trict, burned 240,000 acres. Cen­tral and East­ern Wash­ing­ton are in drought.

Cli­mate dam­age has arrived in this tem­per­ate cor­ner of Amer­i­ca. It threat­ens our liv­abil­i­ty, our secu­ri­ty, our snow and glac­i­er-fed water supply.

Why, then, are Repub­li­can law­mak­ers going to the mat against the most impor­tant cli­mate leg­is­la­tion in Amer­i­can his­to­ry? Why are they block­ing vet­er­ans leg­is­la­tion when they go on right wing media to sing vet­er­ans’ praises?

The answer is prob­a­bly power.

‘Took them long enough, but Democ­rats are at last find­ing ways to grow the Amer­i­can econ­o­my and pro­tect the Earth. The con­struc­tive exer­cise of pow­er goes against every­thing wit­nessed when Repub­li­cans con­trolled Con­gress, espe­cial­ly a Sen­ate that served as a leg­isla­tive graveyard.

We may see those days return in the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions. No fur­ther action on cli­mate, no relief from drug prices, no pro­tec­tion for the rights to mar­ry the per­son you love or con­tin­ued access to contraception.

Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers will be in the clover. If Repub­li­cans win, she is in line to chair the pow­er­ful House Ener­gy and Com­merce Committee.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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